I’m pretty sure all parents will have some kind of health scare or another in the lives of their children. I was a pretty healthy kid, an only child, but I managed to dump a pot of boiling water on myself when I was young, so I’m sure that necessitated a hospital visit, for example. Surely it’s some kind of right of passage, a thing we all end up doing one way or another.
Anyway, I write this after getting back from 5 days in the hospital with KRH, including some time in pediatric intensive care. Last week, I got a call from daycare about him having a high fever, and as soon as I picked him up I heard the telltale wheeze that means he’s having breathing problems, so off to the doctor we went. Once there, it was determined that he was having respiratory distress, so our next destination was the children’s hospital.
To make a long story short, KRH had managed to acquire infection by two separate viruses, and combined with what’s increasingly suspected to be asthma, he was in fairly rough shape. Now, this wasn’t our first trip to the emergency room with breathing trouble (we spent his first Christmas Eve in emergency, and we’ve been back more than a few times) but it was his first time being admitted.
I think a couple of things from these last days will always stick with me. First, the memory of holding and comforting him before we were sent to intensive care. His breathing was getting increasingly wheezy and he was working harder and harder to breathe. We’d already been in the hospital a day by this point, and my wife had gone home for a little while after spending the night, so I was there while there was an increasing parade of nurses, respiratory technicians and doctors came in, examined him, applied medicines, and expressed concern.
In retrospect, I wish I’d been smart enough to ask how concerned I should have been, because the doctors could probably have reassured me that they were acting to keep things from getting to a state of “very bad.” Still, for all that I was kept pretty busy during this part, it was hard not to focus on the fear that things were getting worse.
The second thing came about two days later. He had to wear an airflow mask for a while, and after about 36 hours in that, he was able to go down to just oxygen, (plus a bunch of other tubes, mind you). Anyway, he was in the hospital crib, with the sides lowered about halfway. I took about two steps away to turn a light down… and turned back to see him hitting a table below the crib headfirst. I’m pretty sure the movement of him falling is burned in my brain.
He ended up with a nasty bruise but no lasting damage, but I’m struck by how much worse it could have been, because if the table hadn’t been there he’d have fallen three times as far. I know better, too. I’ve caught him numerous time as he tries to lunge off things, but the nurse had put the crib sides where they were and I didn’t think to change them. I may never trust him again.
I think these moments are forever etched in my brain, and that’s okay. I knew being a parent would have times like this, and I expected them to change me, but I didn’t expect the raw emotion of the feelings. A little worry or a bad memory can feel very powerful, almost to the point of being overwhelming.
I’m sure there’s a writing lesson here somewhere, about how things affect us more when we care about the person these things are happening to, but really, sometimes it’s fine just to feel these things as they are, especially given how new I am to this whole parenting experience, still. I’ll just hope for good health for everyone, friend, family and otherwise.